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Complaints about Japan's transportation and tips for getting from Tokyo to Nikko

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Post time 2024-6-4 01:21:52 | View all Read mode

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Note: After writing this article, I realized that it took so long to complain! Students who don’t want to read it can scroll directly to the bottom to read the guide.
The last time I went to Japan was in October 2019. I applied for a new Japanese visa a while ago and decided to go to Japan for a big weekend.
Because I travel alone, I plan many things at the last minute. The general direction is that I have four days and plan to travel around Tokyo as the center. After reading some guides, I decided to spend two days in Nikko, and spend the other two days going somewhere else or leaving one day to wander around Tokyo. I plan to take a midnight flight, arrive at Tokyo Haneda Airport in the early morning, and take a bus directly to Nikko.
What is the best way to get from Tokyo to Nikko? What kind of ticket is best to buy during those days in Tokyo? I was dizzy after reading the guide. I had an idea and chatted with ChatGPT. I felt that it is very useful and can be used. Design routes and provide various suggestions. It suggested that I: use the Tobu Railway Nikko All Area Pass when in daylight:
  • Coverage Scope: Includes round-trip transportation to Nikko from Asakusa or Shinjuku, buses (Tobu Bus) to the Nikko and Kinugawa Onsen areas, and major attractions including Lake Chuzenji, Kegon Falls, and Toshogu Shrine.
  • Validity period: 4 days
  • Price: approximately 4,600 yen (from Asakusa), approximately 7,000 yen (from Shinjuku)
  • Purchase location: Yes Buy it at the Tobu Railway station ticket window, or make a reservation online

Since I still have to wander around Tokyo, ChatGPT suggested that I buy another ticketThree-day JR Tokyo Wide Pass: 10,180 yen, covering all major transportation from Friday to Sunday, including round-trip transportation from Tokyo to Nikko, Hakone and Kawagoe.
It seemed very reasonable, so I decided to buy a JR Tokyo Wide Pass from Haneda to Nikko, and then buy a Tobu Railway Nikko All-Area Pass when I got to Nikko.
The fact is, Japan’s transportation system is too complicated! I've been here a dozen times and still feel confused. Finally I found that I was deceived by ChatGPT and did not choose the most cost-effective method...

I arrived at Haneda Airport early on Friday morning. It was too early. JR's office didn't open until 6:45, so I had to wait for a long time. After opening the door, I told the window that I wanted to buy a three-day Tokyo All-Area Pass. The window asked me where I was going because a three-day ticket cost 15,000 yen, which was not necessarily cost-effective.
Fifteen thousand! It was 50% more expensive than the prices offered by ChatGPT and Japan Travel, and I was immediately confused. I said I would be in Nikko for two days and asked how much it would cost one way to Nikko. The window told me it was more than 5,000. Then she asked me where I was going on the third day. I asked if I could go to Hakone, but she said no. What about Lake Kawaguchi? She said yes, it would be cost-effective.
So I bought a ticket. After buying it, I thought about it and thought it was still not a good deal. The Tobu Nikko Pass covers a round trip from Asakusa to Nikko, but the total price is the same as a JR one-way ticket! JR is too expensive. It seems that I have to go to a farther place on the third day to barely make up my money.
Okay, let's make peace with it. From Haneda, we first took the monorail to Hamamatsucho Station in the city, then transferred to the JY Yamanote Line from Hamamatsucho to Ueno, then took the JR Yamagata Shinkansen from Ueno to Utsunomiya, and finally took the JR Nikko Line from Utsunomiya, finally arriving in Nikko.
When I arrived in Nikko, I went to the tourist information office for consultation, and they told me that the Nikko All-Area Pass can only be purchased online (in fact, ChatGPT gave me this information, but I didn’t care)! Well, it’s such a hassle, since I have the pass, I’d better take the JR back.
I returned to Tokyo after staying in Nikko for two days. I thought that this JR round trip would cost about 10,000 yen. Now I have to find a destination for the third day to maximize the benefits of my pass. The pass also limits my choices. I can’t go to Hakone, Kamakura or anything else. After much deliberation, I chose Atami.
I checked on the JR official website that there are many trains to Atami. There is one at 9:00 in the morning that takes 80 minutes, and one at 9:20 that only takes 45 minutes. It is a Shinkansen. So I ran to the service desk and asked if I needed to make a reservation for the 9:20 flight.
Unexpectedly, the service staff told me that your pass cannot take this bus, which is the Shinkansen.
I was shocked: Can’t the pass be used on all JR trains? When I go to Nikko, I take the Shinkansen.
He said: This Shinkansen is operated by another company (I yelled in my heart: How the hell do I know this! Aren’t they all JR!)
I asked which class I could take Going to Atami?
He said: You can take the 9 o'clock class, which is local.
I saw that there were still five minutes left, so I rushed to platform 9. Unexpectedly, I saw that several carriages had reserved seats. With two minutes to go, I grabbed a flight attendant who was talking to someone else, and regardless of politeness, I asked him if there were free seats on this train. He said no. I took out the ticket and showed it to him: What should I do? Can I get on the bus? He hesitated briefly, then said yes.
Getting on the bus, the ticket was checked halfway. Fortunately, the flight attendant looked at the pass and said OK, OK. So the reserved seats are not so strict. Later, a friend who lives in Japan told me that if you have a pass, you can go to a reserved seat, as long as the seat owner comes and gives up your seat. There is a small light above the seat. If someone has reserved a seat at the next stop, the small light will light up red.
After getting on the bus and checking on my phone, I found out that my Tokyo-wide ticket was issued by JR East, and the Shinkansen to Atami was operated by JR Tokaido, so I couldn't take it. In fact, the map I downloaded from the JR official website also marked it, but I don’t have that string at all!
Tokyo-Complaints about Japan's transportation and tips for getting from Tokyo to Nikko

Some friends think that JR and Shinkansen are two companies. Let’s popularize it here: Shinkansen means high-speed rail. All Shinkansen lines in Japan are operated by JR, but JR has six regional companies and a freight company. Each company operates different regions. There are also more than a dozen private railway companies in Japan, each responsible for different regions. How can ordinary people understand this?
Well, since I can't take the Shinkansen, I plan to ask the window staff which train I can take on the return trip. I went to the station window to ask around 5:45 in the afternoon. The staff pointed to the 51-minute train and said that it was OK. I hurried to the platform. Damn, she pointed me to the slowest train! I checked on Google and it takes nearly two hours to get to Tokyo! And the most common subway seats don’t have charging sockets on the car, which pisses me off! My ticket was valid for taking the express train, but I lost money again! !
To popularize it again: the fastest train in Japan is the Shinkansen, and then in descending order of speed there are express, express, express, and ordinary. If the pass you hold is for ordinary trains, you will need to pay extra for limited express and express trains.
An interlude: From Tokyo to Nikko, I used an IC card for the first half of the journey and a JR pass for the second half. As a result, I swiped the IC card once and did not swipe it a second time when changing stations. The card was blocked in daylight. It cost me more than 1,800 yen to lift the lockdown!
In short, I am exhausted by Japan’s transportation system. It is not cost-effective for me to buy a JR pass because other train companies have cheaper plans whether going to Nikko or Atami. The conclusion is:
  • If you don’t stay in Japan for a long time, you really don’t need to buy a pass. You can buy tickets on the spot wherever you want.
  • The window staff at each station can speak some English. The lines are too complicated, and Google Maps is not always easy to use. If you don’t understand anything, try to ask at the window.
  • Even if you ask, you may get it wrong. Just embrace getting on the wrong bus or being confused about the situation in Japan as an experience you will definitely have when traveling.

Some tips:

Going from Tokyo to Nikko:
Buying something from Asakusa The Wuhan Railway Nikko All Area Pass is the most cost-effective, valid for 4 days, and includes round-trip travel from Asakusa to Nikko as well as transportation in Nikko. This ticket can only be purchased online or at Asakusa Tobu Station. The current (May 2024) fare is 4,780 yen.

In Nikko:
The most worthwhile place to visit is the World Heritage area in the picture below. In fact, if you are willing to walk, it only takes less than half an hour to walk from the station, and there is no need to buy a bus ticket. The road leading to the World Heritage area is Nikko's main road, where you can go shopping. The famous dessert here is yokan, and there are several restaurants along the way.
In addition to the most important must-see Toshogu Shrine, my personal favorites in the World Heritage area are Daiyuin Temple and the world's longest ancient cedar tree avenue. The World Heritage area is definitely worth spending half a day or a full day exploring.
Tokyo-Complaints about Japan's transportation and tips for getting from Tokyo to Nikko

If you stay in Nikko for two days:
Then there are several options: either live in Nikko city , either go to the Lake Chuzenji area (in the west) or go to the Kinugawa Onsen area (in the north). I chose a hot spring hotel in Kinugawa Onsen. It cost less than 900 yuan for two meals and one hotel room, which was very cost-effective. However, the transportation in the area is not very convenient, and there is nothing to see around.
And to go to the Kinugawa Onsen area, there is no bus every day. There was no bus on the day I was there, so I had to take the train. The train needs to make a transfer in Shimo-Imaichi.
If you don’t care much about hot springs, staying in the Lake Chuzenji area may be a good choice, because there are many restaurants nearby, and in a place like Lake Chuzenji, watching the sunset and morning light will definitely be more beautiful.
Finally, if possible, go to Nikko in autumn. Look at the vegetation, it must be as beautiful as a dream in autumn.


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